Thomas Bayrle – All in one

All in one

21.06 — 14.10.2013

The exhibition, organized in collaboration with WIELS- Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels, is the largest retrospective ever held in Europe devoted to the German artist Thomas Bayrle.

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Together with other artists such as Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, Thomas Bayrle (Berlin, 1937) is one of the pioneers and leading exponents of Pop Art in Germany, and one of the most influential artists of our time. By incorporating symbols of both capitalist society and communism, as defined on either side of the Berlin Wall since the Cold War years, and continuing to question the mechanisms of communication and image production in the globalized society, Bayrle has probably given us the most powerful portrait of contemporary mass humanity, the complexity of our identity, oscillating between self and others, between solitary alienation and a paradoxical plurality of relationships.

In the obsessive, almost Piranesian repetition, of a single basic motif that composes images in which the micro generates the macro, the single element is connected to the whole (the practice of a minimal matrix which has become the hallmark of this artist), the works of Bayrle are based on a constant layering of styles and approaches taken from Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Op Art, configured as condensations of the artistic language of the neo-avant- gardes of the later twentieth century. In the wake of the sociological and philosophical reflections of the Frankfurt School, Bayrle represents a contemporary hybrid identity which combines consumption and ecology, propaganda and protest, sexuality and pornography, spirituality and religion. Bayrle is therefore a key figure, as artist, teacher and intellectual, if we are to understand art, and in fact the very function of art in contemporary society.

Presenting more than 200 works, from 1960 to the present, the exhibition explores all the salient phases of the research and the different aspects of the artist’s career, including works created in widely different media, from the early kinetic machines of the 1960s to collages, large paintings, films, graphic production and publications, sculptural works and utopian/dystopian architectural models, down to his most recent mechanical installations. This major exhibition, the first ever devoted to this artist-interpreter of the twentieth century in an Italian public institution, takenas a whole constitutes the most impressive representation of the society in which we live, revealing its reticular, inter- connected, layered and, in the final analysis, contradictory character, which inspired the title of the exhibition itself: it borrows the expression “all in one” from the language of marketing to talk in this instance of ourselves and the way we live today, our patterns of consumption and our systems of thought, our innermost beliefs and our vital natural desires, our solitude and yet our being “all in one” …